La Petite Production co-owner Laurent Dano on his essential Brussels addresses

A restless soul, co-owner of coffee heaven My Little Cup Laurent Dano (1982) has taken on a new project: La Petite Production. Partnering up with the highly esteemed Chileno-Belgian chef Danaé de la Barra (1980), the Bretonian recently opened a brand new, brunch-only diner in the Brussels neighbourhood of Flagey. The barista expert spills the beans on his favourite go-to spots and getaways – foodies, pay close attention.

Love is initially what brought me to Brussels three years ago, but I also figured that as a promising city rife with opportunities, it might also be the place to start setting up my vision for good food matched with excellent coffee. In some senses, Brussels is behind other urban centres in terms of “concepts” and innovative projects, yet having said that you can also feel that this mentality is rapidly changing. It’s pretty obvious that locals are hungry for dynamic, creative and effective entrepreneurialism. Whether it be in Flagey where we launched, or my neighbourhood in Schaerbeek, one can sense changes in the cityscape and its heterogeneous populations. I noticed, for instance, that there was a gap in the market for a brunch place – something which is dominant, to say the least, in the US or Australia. After having spent two years in Melbourne myself, I was determined to introduce explosive soul food into Brussels. In fact, the idea for a strictly brunch-only diner was the first plan – even before My Little Cup (Rue de la Croix de Fer 53 Ijzerenkruisstraat, 1000) – but due to legislative and technical complications (a regular occurrence in the city’s administrative layers) it kept being pushed back. To be quite frank, I had to seriously consider whether it would be feasible indeed to launch the business here as we felt that this city wasn’t exactly supportive of our initiative. I’m happy and relieved to see that La Petite Production (Rue du Couloir 5 Gangstraat, 1050) finally took off, and that my partner Danaé and I are able to kick-start the brunch scene in the capital with our own take: fresh, locally sourced organic meals – paired with excellent coffee of course.

There’s still a lot of business to take care off, so unfortunately I don’t have as much free time as I used to. So I’ve become quite selective when it comes to going out – places that I know and love, for both their quality of food and produce and customer service. Places manned by people who clearly know what they’re doing, and do it with passion. Values that, here at La Petite Production, we tend to prioritise ourselves: serving great food and drinks in an approachable, relaxed atmosphere. Food shopping wise, I have several unshakeable staples. Pralines, for instance, are only purchased from Elisabeth (Rue au Beurre 43, 49 Boterstraat; 1000 / Rue du Marché aux Herbes 55 Grasmarkt, 1000 / Rue de l’Etuve 55 Stoofstraat, 1000), no questions asked. The bakery Hopla Geiss (105 Chaussée d’Alsembergse Steenweg, 1060) also has to be noted for their exceptional products – make sure to try out their highly sought out flammenkueche. I enjoy the occasional night out attending concerts at Ancienne Belgique or Botanique. It has to be said however that most of my limited personal time is spent wining and dining. For instance, back in the day I often went to the excellent Sablon-based cocktail den Hortense. To be fair, I do still enjoy Hortense (2 Rue de Vergniesstraat, 1050), now based in Flagey (and only a few steps away from us!), as well as the artisanal-esque Le Dillens (11 Place Julien Dillensplein, 1060) in St Gilles. Another favourite is MIM’s rooftop restaurant (Rue Montagne de la Cour 2 Hofberg, 1000): besides being housed in Paul Saintenoy’s iconic Art Nouveau building “Old England”, it also boasts an unparalleled 360° panoramic view of the city. There’s also De le Vigne à l’Assiette (Rue de la Longue Haie 51 Lange Haagstraat, 1000), who make the best French tartare in my humble opinion – expect the real deal here. Otherwise, for pizzas, I head to Pulcinella (737 Chaussée de Waterlooose Steenweg, 1180) in Bascule; it’s not exactly the prettiest or most appealing place, but my god do their pizzas make up for it. My new favourite find however has to be Ô Banh Mi (140 Rue Philippe Baucqstraat, 1040): hands down the best Vietnamese sandwiches in Brussels. Wine Shack (Rue de l’Enseignement 124 Onderrichtsstraat, 1000), a wine bar located by Madou is renowned for their carefully selected range of wines. It’s manned by a real wine connoisseur from Chablis, someone who’s really on the ball, loves his trade, and even worked in vineyards himself. Another must is the Place de la Liberté / Vrijheidsplein (1000) just down the road. It’s often overlooked, but that just means that it’s more reserved and unpretentious. You can nip into Le Mangeoire (Rue du Congrès 34 Congresstraat, 1000) to pick up some of their delicious concoctions but if you’d rather have the Belgian experience, there’s also Ah Non Peut-Être (Rue de la Croix de Fer 40-42 Ijzerenkruisstraat, 1000) and their traditional boulettes. Definitely my favourite downtown spot to spend a sunny summer’s day. And if we’re talking about open spaces, the place to be on Monday nights for drinks is Saint-Gilles’ Van Meenen’s market (Place Maurice van Meenenplein, 1060). Finally, the calm and peaceful La Cambre Abbey (Abbaye de la Cambre / Abdij ter Kameren, 1050), where I’ll go to enjoy a beer and a game of pétanque with mates.

Rue du Couloir 5 Gangstraat (1050)